Dem looks at options in funding for state’s roads

The Democratic state lawmaker tasked with ushering a massive transportation-funding bill through the House said Tuesday he is open to tapping Colorado’s mineral revenues to underwrite highway and bridge repairs.

Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, said he plans to sit down with his Republican colleagues during the next week and sort through a variety of alternatives to increasing car-registration fees to raise $250 million a year.

“I’m willing to bring in things like severance tax and future new revenue, but we need to do enough now to get done what we need to get done,” Rice said.

One alternative funding solution Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, have proposed is tapping up to $25 million in severance taxes, collected from energy companies drilling on state and private land in Colorado, for road, bridge and highway repairs.

“There may be a number of fair and effective ways we can get to a figure of $250 million without unduly harming other important programs,” Rice said. “If we can get there, there will be bipartisan agreement.”

If not, Rice said Democrats are not afraid to push the bill through alone.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said he is happy to hear Rice is open to compromise, particularly at finding ways to lower the fees through the use of existing revenues and taking provisions allowing for tolling on existing state highways off the table.

“They ultimately have the votes to power this thing through if they so choose,” Penry said.


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